Do You Know Someone Who Snores?
We know, it might be difficult to tell someone you love they snore. Maybe your partner is the culprit and we all know Dads can be usual suspects too but increasingly, Moms snoring is a sign of sleep apnea. For many, snoring is simply a nuisance. However, this nuisance may be associated with an underlying health condition. Symptoms of sleep disorders are often difficult to distinguish, which can make it difficult to decide the right time to consult a specialist.
This may prove an even tougher job for those who sleep alone, as they may not even be aware that they snore or if they’re exhibiting other symptoms of a sleep disorder. Regardless of living situation or marital status, the possible health implications of snoring can be devastating if left unchecked. There are a number of potential causes for sleep apnea, some are listed below. If you’re snoring and exhibiting any common sleep apnea symptoms, consider taking our Online Epworth Sleepiness Evaluation to find out if you have sleep apnea.
1. You May Be Anatomically Predisposed
Typically, snoring is caused by an obstruction in the airway or by the airway narrowing. When air is breathed over this obstruction, it creates a vibrating effect in the soft palate and uvula, which creates the sound we know as snoring. While there are many variables that can cause this, there are some people that tend to be anatomically predisposed to snoring. This can happen if your soft palate is thick or situated at a relatively low point. Similarly, if you have a very long uvula, this can make snoring more likely. For those who suspect they may have an anatomical predisposition to snoring, it may first be helpful to review other causes listed below. If you can rule out these causes, it may be time to talk to your doctor about management.
2. Your Alcohol Consumption Might Be a Factor
Drinking alcohol causes tissues in the throat to relax. A relaxed soft palate is more likely to cause a partial airway obstruction, which means that someone who isn’t ordinarily predisposed to snoring may snore after drinking. Likewise, a relaxed tongue may move in a way that partially blocks the airway, making it more likely that snoring will occur. In addition to relaxing the throat’s soft tissues, alcohol consumption before bed can negatively affect a quality night’s rest by putting you into deep sleep much too early in the sleep cycle. Refrain from alcohol before bed in order to avoid disrupting your sleep quality, while possibly lessening snoring.
3. You May Be Suffering From Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea is a chronic condition where the tissues of the mouth and throat block the airway while you sleep, causing snoring and interruptions in the normal breathing pattern. Generally, this condition slows breathing—or stops it entirely—at least 5 times per hour of sleep. These continuous lapses in breathing cause affected individuals to wake frequently in the night, which is detrimental to sleep quality.
Identifying sleep apnea symptoms for what they are—as opposed to what they appear to be—can prove a more difficult task than one may think. These symptoms are often mistaken for other health concerns, or overall shifts in mood, which greatly contributes to the staggering 80% of cases that go undiagnosed. Consult your physician, or a sleep specialist, if you suspect that you may have sleep apnea or another sleep disorder. It’s also best to adopt certain lifestyle changes that may help improve the quality of your sleep.
These changes often can include:
- Losing weight (for obese or overweight patients)
- Treating chronic nasal congestion
- Routine exercise
- Balanced diet
In addition to lifestyle changes, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy is a highly popular, non-surgical method of sleep apnea management. A CPAP device attaches to the user’s face and helps to keep the airway clear by continuously pushing air through the CPAP mask. Although there may be an initial adjustment period for CPAP therapy, this method of obstructive sleep apnea management has the most proven success—while being much less invasive than surgical options.
4. You May Be Chronically Sleep Deprived
Much like alcohol, chronic sleep deprivation can cause a relaxation in the mouth and throat tissues. This makes these tissues more likely to sag, which may partially block the airway. Making sure you receive the appropriate amount of sleep is imperative for a quality night’s rest. For those who suspect sleep deprivation may be at play, a balanced diet and frequent exercise make a world of difference in promoting a healthier sleep routine. If the problem persists after a lifestyle change, consult a physician as this may be a sign of an underlying condition.
5. Obesity and Inactivity Can Play a Role
Poor muscle tone around the throat can make it more likely that the tissues of the throat and mouth will obstruct the airway. Much like the lifestyle changes suggested above, routine exercise and a well-balanced diet can greatly help to improve, if not alleviate, these cases. A highly common cause of snoring is obesity. While not all people who snore are obese, obesity makes snoring more likely since the extra body mass in the throat region actually applies pressure to the throat. This is why exercise and a balanced diet play a critical role in managing snoring for a plethora of causes.
6. Sleep Position May Play a Role
While sleep position will not typically cause snoring on its own, certain sleep positions may exacerbate snoring. In particular, lying on your back when sleeping amplifies the effects of gravity on the throat and may cause—or worsen—snoring. If you frequently sleep on your back and snore, sleeping on your side may be worth trying in order to minimize the sounds and causes of the snoring while still providing support for your back.
Although snoring may simply seem like a nuisance, it can potentially have detrimental health consequences if left unchecked. Making healthy lifestyle changes is excellent for improving your overall sleep quality, but shouldn’t be used as a substitute for professional guidance. Consult your physician if you suspect that your snoring may be associated with an underlying sleep disorder—and ask about the benefits of home sleep testing if a sleep study is recommended.